Advertising Across the World: Africa

How do we advertise in new lands? What does it take to make sharp and successful campaigns for towns whose name you don’t know how to pronounce yet?

Welcome to GVSU Advertising Club’s new blog series, Advertising Around The World, where we take a look at advertising and marketing in different parts of the globe! With the intense diversity and cultural differences the world has to offer, it is important that the young advertising professional know how to reach and appeal to all different types of people groups. With the workplace increasingly moving online, your possibility for working internationally is growing, so your skill set should too! Read along with us this semester as we dive into diverse markets and people groups, and learn ho to advertise around the world!

This week, we take a look at what it takes to advertise to sub-Saharan Africa. In a very young and generally income-shallow market, it has been hard for large international brands, especially from America, to copy and paste their business and advertising strategies into Africa. This is because consumers buy differently, and need different marketing in turn.

First and foremost, research and correct perspective are key. Just like how it would be foolish to make a successful “American” ad, there is no such thing as a successful “African” ad. There is a rich and beautiful cultural diversity to Africa, which should not be taken for granted in your campaign. Localization is critical, and assumptions about consumer habits and trends need to be avoided, as Neil Davidson writes in WARC. You will never encounter a “one size fits all” idea or advertisement that will work in Africa, let alone any other part of the globe, so start to think smaller. Visit the community, get to know the city. Learn what they love, who they trust, what they spend their time doing, what traits of a brand they value the most. While it may be hard to get your boots on the ground, find a way to connect past news articles and assumptions. The more authentic and personal your experience with your target audience is, the better your chances of a successful campaign!

Once you know your target community and audience, reaching them is your next step. Africa’s fastest growing communication channel is mobile, but this is not true in every community or locality. Experiential and sampling campaigns have great value, due to the skepticism and oftentimes low budget in many African markets. Interestingly, radio is still a high use and high-reach medium. When making your campaign, be sure to include radio ads; not everyone has the opportunity to be on the web or see your outdoor ads, so bring it to their ears!

Build it on savings. In a poll investigating the most effective advertisements in Africa, the most impactful were those that had a good price offer or discount. With the intense diversity in Africa, good prices always hold clear benefits to anyone. Letting consumers know that your product won’t put them out of house and home is important. Yet so is educating them. Nearly 20% of all people aged 1-14 live in sub-Saharan Africa. They need to know what the product is, how to use it, why to use it, and why your price is so good. Especially in the rapidly growing access to the internet, their exposure to thousands of new products may be overwhelming, as it is for any youth venturing onto social media and the web. Meet them with education and fair prices, and they will be more likely to engage the ad.

Pictures speak louder than words, so use them. This is especially true in foriegn countries and continents. As Americans, we like to think that other people groups are remarkably different from us; in many ways they are, but our fears, pleasures, hopes and dreams (and those ever-important human truths) are felt across the world. Find them, and make captivating ads with them. 

African markets are just like american markets in many ways, so it is up to you to find those similarities, tailor them to the people with research and intention, and watch as your ideas grow into successful and powerful advertising!

As we will see throughout this blog series this semester, we are not all that different. Our fiercest hopes and darkest fears unite us as humans, and it is your job to bring the world products that can help meet these needs. 

By: Micah Hill


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